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Amaranth Whole Foods Market: A Local and Family-First Approach to Growth

Amaranth’s core value of putting family at the centre of their business model is what sets them apart from their competitors.

With its 30th anniversary approaching, and multiple stores in Calgary and Edmonton, Amaranth’s co-owner Brendan Klatt spent some time, reflecting on how Amaranth has been successful in steadily growing and strengthening its base in Alberta despite the increasingly competitive marketplace.

For Brendan, Amaranth’s longevity can be attributed to a number of factors—being family-owned takes the top spot, followed by their commitment to supporting local products, encouraging and experimenting with new local and environmentally friendly products, and their mission to serve the community better by promoting healthy initiatives.

“Being local and family-owned determines how we do business.” Brendan explains that “being local” is more than just a marketing strategy for Amaranth. “We prioritize small entrepreneurs starting their companies in Calgary or Edmonton, and we buy food from farmers who grow their food close by.”

A priority for Amaranth is supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, which provide the store with items that include pemmican, dried bison, teas, and personal care products.

“We love supporting and promoting these products,” says Brendan, “because they support the local environment and many of them are based on traditional products, which allows us to learn more about Indigenous culture and history.”

Family-first approach

Amaranth’s core value of putting family at the centre of their business model is what sets them apart from their competitors.

“Family-owned means we try and run our business [by] keeping our team members and their families front of mind.”

Brendan wants to ensure that Amaranth’s employees experience a sense of belonging, find their work rewarding, feel supported in their goals, and look forward to coming to work. When it comes to hiring likeminded people to become part of Amaranth, Brendan admits that finding dependable employees is a challenge these days. However, Amaranth’s reputation, success, and brand have attracted people and has brought them many talented team members who share the company values.

To ensure employee retention, Brendan says that they keep working on their training plans, team support, store culture, and making sure that the team is well paid.

“Above all, we try our best to live and breathe our company vision, mission, and values and promote a positive company culture.”

Amaranth also takes pride in partnering with vendors and customers that are family oriented.

“Our mission is to be people focused, and family and local are key values that allow us to live it.”

This commitment to family “shows up in the special parking at one of our stores for expectant mothers and parents with children. It shows up when we have designated baby sections in all of our stores, despite slower-than-typical sales on some of the SKUs.”

A “first in new products” store

Another distinguishing feature for Amaranth is its position as a “first in new products” store. Brendan is an enthusiastic advocate for new products that are local, taste amazing, and are good for people and the environment. And he believes that Amaranth’s customers “feel the same way and love trying new things.”

This also gives Amaranth an upper hand over other stores since larger, chain retailers that “don’t tend to have the industry experience or customer knowledge to ‘pick’ winners from the massive flow of potential new products.”

This is a strategic advantage that allows Amaranth to use that experience to pick products that their customers will love.

“While others may pick up on these products downstream, if our suppliers tend to be smaller and/or local and family focused, these products continue to be winners for us,” he adds.

Small scale, big wins

Amaranth supports and works with many small-scale and novel local vendors, having started as a small, family-owned business itself. Over the years, their vendors have grown alongside Amaranth. Brendan recalls how three small companies — producing kombucha, deodorant, and coffee — were just starting out when they were first featured in Amaranth stores but now are household names in the city with some of those products available across Canada.

Keeping true to Amaranth’s small business roots, they prioritize and focus on grassroots relationships in all areas of business, including promoting the store and reaching out to new customers.

“We occasionally do ads and more conventional advertising but serving our customers and communities and building a loyal fanbase [through word of mouth] is our bread and butter.”

To further foster the spirit of community, Amaranth became a member of the Health First Network (HFN), a group of over 100 independent natural health and wellness retailers and stores across Canada whose first love is to help people in their communities live healthier lives.

For Brendan, being an HFN member has instilled a sense of shared purpose and value system with other members in Calgary and Edmonton.

“Rather than competing against each other, we are a true community of stores that work together to help our customers and communities.”

Being a part of the HFN is a two-way street; while taking advantage of all that HFN has to offer, promoting and supporting the HFN brand and programs also allows the members to support and work with hundreds of other family-run stores across Canada.

“It allows us to keep the dream of small, independent, family-owned shops alive in the face of large corporate chain stores or Amazon,” he smiles.

Chatting with other owners and getting their ideas on areas of improvement for Amaranth, and sharing their own best practices is a refreshing exercise that Brendan particularly enjoys undertaking.

He notes, “It makes running a small business just a little less lonely and challenging.”

Community connection

Having grown up in Calgary and Edmonton, these cities and their people hold a special place in Brendan’s heart, and this reflects in how works to give back to these communities.

“Being family-owned, the ways we give back tend to be more grassroots. It means that we live in and are invested in our communities, which is great for the local economy. In Calgary, we volunteer to help pack lunches for kids who don’t have one. We frequently work with local community organizations like the Arbour Lake Residents Association across the street from our store there, and partner with the Calgary Waldorf School.”

Throughout the year, Amaranth is involved in various community and family-centred fundraising initiatives.

“We pick a charity each quarter to donate one per cent of our profits to. This is pegged to how well we do, and the cadence reminds us to give back regularly.”

Their employees are often involved in deciding which charities they want to support each quarter. Amaranth also believes in extending support to their employees’ families, making them feel part of this family-focused business.

“We support some of our team members’ kids’ soccer fundraisers. We participated in a local gala to support pregnancy and infant loss support, because our family knows how hard this can be.”

Looking ahead

With four locations in Alberta, Brendan wants to focus on enhancing the current stores and maximising their impact and efficiency to serve the community the best they can. Amaranth is currently hiring, training, and building its team to accommodate its projected growth.

“We are also looking to strategically plan the next one to 10 years, and plan for the future,” he says. “The aim is to define and refine the things that will support us in the long-term.”

For Brendan, expanding their operations further needs to feel purposeful and organic.

He concludes, “We can’t overextend and overleverage, and we don’t want to expand into poor markets or ones where competition is high — it isn’t our goal to put other health food stores out of business.”

Brendan and his team strongly believe that Amaranth’s expansion and growth can’t just be about profit; the driving force behind it has to be their desire to “do more good” for their customers, team, and communities.

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